In Limoges, Armelle Cuvillier and Gaël Champier were fired from the company they created, after having distinguished themselves in the fight against Covid 19 and colorectal cancer.
The Interceltic Festival of Lorient 2022
B Cell design is above all the story of two brilliant scientists who decided to live and work in Limoges. In 2007, Gaël Champier and Armelle Cuvillier created a biotechnology company whose objective was to carry out scientific research. They focused their work on IgA, antibodies found on human mucous membranes.
B Cell Design made a lot of noise in 2020 at the time of the Covid 19 pandemic. The company indeed undertook to create a screening test based on his work. His goal was also to create a mouthwash capable of killing the virus in the throat of patients, before it enters the body.
The French army trusted the two researchers enough to fund their work to the tune of 280,000 euros. For now, research is still ongoing.
However, the immunologist Stéphane Paul, member of the scientific committee for vaccines and team leader of the international center for research in infectiology (CIRI), was able to obtain molecular material from the Limoges company, to verify that it was more effective to get vaccinated against Covid with vaccines from different brands (Pfyzer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca). His study was conducted on 50,000 patients and was the subject of a publication in the scientific journal Nature.
A few days ago, Armelle Cuvillier was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor by the prefect of Haute-Vienne, at the request of the Minister of the Armed Forces for his work on Covid 19.
But the research needed by Armelle Cuvillier and Gaël Champier is much more advanced in the fight against colorectal cancer.
After more than 15 years of work, in collaboration with the University of Limoges and many other partners, the 2 researchers have found a drug that could directly attack malignant tumors inside the colon. The results are so promising that human clinical trials could start in 2 years. The treatment could be on the market in 6 to 8 years.
But in the fall of 2021, the Limoges Commercial Court placed B Cell Design in receivership. The start-up was indeed swallowing up a lot of money to work, without generating any turnover.
To achieve a concrete result on colorectal cancer, he needed 500,000 euros and 6 months of work. Colorectal cancer kills 15,000 people a year in France.
This is when the Inoviem group stepped in. He bought back the majority of the shares of the company, for the refinancer.
6 months later, Gael Champier and Armelle Cuvillier were fired from the company they created and in which they have invested so much. A semester in the course requiring the know-how related to the molecule was transferred to another company for further development under a licensing agreement.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022, they were at the Labor Court in Limoges for a conciliation hearing which unfortunately was unsuccessful. The case is expected to go to trial in the coming months.
We were able to reach Pierre Eftekhari, president of the Inoviem group. On the reasons for the dismissal of the two founders of B Cell Design, he says: “We found significant shortcomings in the direction and strategy of the company, which was therefore jeopardized. We are in the process of seeing precisely what mistakes were made”.
Gael Champier and Armelle Cuvillier note, however, that the faults with which they are accused have absolutely nothing to do with the strategy of a company that they have not run since the end of 2021.
The lack of procedure of dismissal does not put forward any strategic. I am very surprised by this argument which for me is defamatory. I consider that this dismissal is without real cause. I do not accept it and I will assert my rights.Gael Champier, co-founder of B Cell Design
The announcement of the two layoffs is starting to make waves in the scientific community. For the immunologist Stéphane Paul, “B Cell Design is quite unique in France. Armelle Cuvillier and Gael Champier have an incredible capacity for work. They have given their lives to their company. What is happening to them is really unfortunate. They have done a lot of work with the University of Limoges for years”.
B Cell Design still has 7 employees. According to Pierre Eftekhari, president of Inoviem, the future of the company is assured in Limoges. She could specialize in different diagnostic tests for human diseases related to viruses.
Its main know-how is the manufacture of synthetic antibodies very similar to human antibodies.
Pierre Eftekhari says he has no reason to leave Limousin with B Cell Design’s technology: “I have no argument to consider it. There is the history of the Limoges site and above all the know-how of the employees.”
The fact remains that the president of inoviem no longer mentions another area of research at B Cell Design. The company was working to block the AIDS virus before it entered the body. She had to stop this research for lack of funding.